Formaldehyde Beer, Anyone?

Helene and I just quit drinking Chinese beer.

A recent study shows that 95% of beers brewed in China has an usually high level of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. In response, Japan and South Korea have pulled all Chinese beers of the shelf, with the intention of testing them for formaldehyde. Normally, silica gel is used in the brewing process to remove impurities and thus stabilize the process; however, Chinese brewers are said to use formaldehyde to cut costs.

My reaction thus far: “Well, coming to live in China means leaving the safety net behind, anyway.” Until I read the following denial from the Chinese government. Some excerpts:

The State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (SAQSIQ) spot-checked 157 products from 136 domestic beer enterprises and 64 beer products imported from more than 10 countries — in response to recent media reports alleging that Chinese beer contains too much formaldehyde. The SAQSIQ found all the domestic beer products under sample investigation contained formaldehyde of less than 0.9 milligrams a liter, the danger line set by the WHO, while one liter of the imported beer contained 0.10 to 0.61 milligrams of formaldehyde on average.


The association, however, will continue to encourage domestic breweries to gradually reduce or even stop the use of formaldehyde and help them adopt state-of-the-art technology, he said.


So… Of all the beers on the Chinese markets, NONE of them exceed the accepted level of formaldehyde, according to the Chinese government. As a matter of fact, some of them have lower levels of formaldehyde than imported beer. Nonetheless, China will henceforth “continue” to encourage brewers to reduce the use of formaldehyde…

I think I would have been more trusting had the denial been, you know, a bit more realistically formulated…

Until Japan and South Korea test Chinese beer, I’m sticking to martinis. And Helene? She’s already switched to Heineken. Too bad, I really like a Suntory…

About Daniel Roy

Daniel is a writer, backpack foodie, slow traveler, and endurance runner. He is the author of the upcoming book, "The Way of Slow Travel: A Hands-On Guide to the Best Travel of Your Life."

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